September 22, 2016
P. Mauriello, counsel, legal services, with whom were Karyl
L. Carrasquilla, chief disciplinary counsel, and, on the
brief, Suzanne B. Sutton, for the appellant (plaintiff).
Charles W. Fleischmann, with whom, on the brief, was Paul E.
Pollock, for the appellee (defendant).
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald,
Espinosa and Robinson, Js. [*]
appeal, we are asked to decide whether an attorney who
knowingly appropriated client funds, but did not intend to do
so wrongly, ‘‘knowingly misappropriated''
those funds and is therefore subject to mandatory disbarment
pursuant to Practice Book § 2-47A. The plaintiff,
Disciplinary Counsel, appeals from the judgment of the
Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgment of the trial
court reprimanding the defendant, Laurence Parnoff, rather
than disbarring him pursuant to § 2-47A.
Disciplinary Counsel v. Parnoff, 158
Conn.App. 454, 482, 119 A.3d 621 (2015). The plaintiff
contends that the trial court improperly interpreted §
2-47A to mandate disbarment only if an attorney appropriates
client funds knowingly and with the wrongful intent to steal
them. Regardless of the defendant's intent, the plaintiff
claims, the defendant's knowledge that the funds he
appropriated were disputed is sufficient to disbar him. We
conclude that § 2-47A mandates disbarment only when an
attorney misappropriates a client's funds both knowingly
and intentionally-that is, when an attorney steals from his
or her client. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the
disciplinary action originates from a twelve year old fee
dispute that resulted in several actions and various appeals.
The facts and procedural history underlying these actions are
set forth in substantial detail in Disciplinary Counsel
v. Parnoff, supra, 158 Conn.App. 454,
Disciplinary Counsel v. Parnoff, Superior
Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Docket No.
CV-12-6031943-S (September 19, 2013), Parnoff v.
Yuille, 139 Conn.App. 147, 57 A.3d 349 (2012), cert.
denied, 307 Conn. 956, 59 A.3d 1192 (2013), and Parnoff
v. Mooney, 132 Conn.App. 512, 35A.3d 283
(2011).Wesummarize those facts and the relevant procedural
history reflected in the record that are necessary to an
understanding of the present case.
Yuille had been employed by Bridgeport Hospital (hospital)
until a work-related injury led to her termination.
Disciplinary Counsel v. Parnoff, supra, 158
Conn.App. 457. In 1996, Yuille retained Attorney Laura Mooney
to represent her before the Workers' Compensation
Commission on a claim for benefits in connection with her
injuries. Parnoff v. Mooney, supra, 132
Conn.App. 514. During Mooney's representation of Yuille,
Mooney observed bad faith conduct by the hospital in its
handling of the workers' compensation claim. Id.
Mooney attempted to refer Yuille's action against the
hospital, which claimed that the hospital had handled
Yuille's workers' compensation claim in bad faith, to
the defendant. Id., 514 n.2. After the defendant
‘‘failed to provide a timely response, ''
Mooney decided to undertake the action herself, in addition
to undertaking Yuille's workers' compensation claim.
Id. The defendant eventually contacted Mooney and
Mooney referred Yuille to the defendant for a separate claim
against the hospital alleging wrongful discharge.
1998, after Mooney brought the bad faith action, Yuille also
retained the defendant to represent her in a bad faith and
wrongful discharge action against the hospital. Id.,
515. Mooney was initially unaware of the defendant's
representation of Yuille in the bad faith and wrongful
discharge action because Mooney believed that he was merely
retained to pursue the wrongful discharge claim.
Id., 514-15. In retaining the defendant, Yuille
entered into an agreement that provided the defendant with a
contingency fee of 40 percent of gross receipts from the
claim. Disciplinary Counsel v. Par-noff,
supra, 158 Conn.App. 457. On Yuille's behalf, the
defendant commenced the action against the hospital in
November, 1998. Parnoff v. Mooney, supra,
132 Conn.App. 515.
2002, the defendant entered into an agreement with the
hospital on Yuille's behalf to submit her claim to
binding arbitration. Disciplinary Counsel v.
Parnoff, supra, 158 Conn.App. 457. After learning of
the impending arbitration proceeding-and discovering the
overlapping representation-Mooney filed an appearance in the
action against the hospital, which the defendant had
commenced, and appeared at the arbitration proceeding, over
the objection of the hospital. Id. Yuille was
awarded approximately $1.1 million as a result of the binding
arbitration proceeding. Id., 458.
August, 2004, shortly after the arbitration award, Yuille
questioned the defendant's fee agreement, claiming that
the 40 percent contingency fee was excessive because it
violated General Statutes § 52-251c (b),  Connecticut's
fee cap statute, and that a portion of the defendant's
fee should have been allocated to Mooney. Id.,
458-60. After receiving the defendant's closing statement
indicating that his fee amounted to $438, 413.17, Yuille
authorized the defendant to take $125, 000 toward his fee,
and to place the remainder of the 40 percent fee in escrow
until they could agree on a resolution. Id., 458.
After taking $125, 000 toward his fee, the defendant made
various disbursements in connection with the arbitration,
placing $313, 413.17-the remainder of the disputed 40 percent
contingency fee-into a certificate of deposit account (CD)
with Chase Bank as escrow, and paying Yuille the balance of
the award. Id., 460.
defendant and Yuille were unable to resolve the fee dispute,
and, in January, 2005, the defendant filed an action against
Yuille for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and bad
faith. Id. The defendant also filed a separate
action against Mooney for, among other claims, tortious
interference with his agreement with Yuille. Id.,
cases against Mooney and Yuille were consolidated and tried
to a jury. Id., 461. On May 20, 2010, the jury
returned a verdict for the defendant against Yuille on the
defendant's breach of contract claims, and against the
defendant on all other claims. Id. The court
rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, and awarded
the defendant a total of $252, 044.27 for compensatory
damages, interest, and punitive damages.
defendant notified Chase Bank not to renew the CD holding the
disputed funds, causing it to mature. The defendant then
transferred the funds into his personal savings account.
Id., 462. This redemption occurred on July 26, 2010,
approximately five and one-half years after the funds had